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Language Is the Transit of Conversation

By - April 18, 2008

Some musings, fundamental stuff for most of you I imagine, but still, background on the noodling I continue to do around my shadow next book, over at the Amex site where I’m contributing some thoughts from time to time as part of an FM brokered marketing program. From it:

At its core, the Web is a network of computers. As businesspeople, we’ve been in dialog with computers for some time now. But back in the 1960s and 1970s, computers were hulking machines meant for the back offices of Very Large Companies, not small businesses. These machines had a very particular interface – a command line into which you were required to type an arcane “computer language” to get anything done. The number of people who spoke this language were understandably low, and therefore, the number of people in the world who were having “conversations with machines” was also quite low.

In the 1980s, we all got “personal computers,” and thanks to the graphical user interface – “GUI” – millions of us starting talking with computers. But the conversation was hardly fluent. I call this the “hunt and poke” era of computing – we used a mouse to navigate a representational desktop; when we found something we wanted, we poked at it until it came alive for us. This gesticulative interface – not unlike what the wordless signals we employ while in a foreign land in need of the bathroom – is a step forward, but it sure doesn’t scale.

And then the Internet came along. And everything changed. Now we were not just navigating our desktops, or the back office computer files. We were navigating mankind’s possible knowledge base. The whole shootin’ match. Clearly, not a place we could hunt and poke our way through. We needed a new interface. And we found one, in search.

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4 thoughts on “Language Is the Transit of Conversation

  1. The Web is just the latest technology.

    There were less technical attempt before

    —> 1960s – Fan Clubs
    —> 1970s – CB Radios
    —> 1980s – Telephone Chat Rooms
    —> late – 1980s Early 1990s Internet News Groups
    —> Mid 1990s – Gopher

    Web 1.0, then Social Web

  2. Looking at the generations of computer technology shows us how things turned out the way they did, and the market forces still present upon us.

    This is my commentary, from a technical writer’s eye, of how the changes altered language:

    Great post. It’s why you’re the first John on Google.

  3. Thanks very nice post.First you John or Google

  4. net gazetesi says:

    Great post. It’s why you’re the first John on Google.